Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Quantum Theory of Literacy.

Paper 3

The Quantum Literacy Theory proposes that

In common with all other skills, reading skill is independent of intellectual capacity and is solely a consequence of a specific amount of successful practice, the quantum of which, in common with all other normally distributed phenomena, varies between individuals.

It is sometimes suggested by teachers, that the one in five children who leave school unable to read are the lowest 20% of the intellectual spectrum of ability. This implies that these children simply lack the intellectual capacity to learn to read and that consequently, their failure to learn to read is no way, a failure of teaching. The many famously intelligent, high achievers who failed to learn to read at school shows that this argument has no validity. Additionally of course, it is also beyond dispute, that the acquisition of any skill is a matter of practice and entirely independent of intellect.

It may be of course that there are people whose brains are wired differently and who consequently, experience greater difficulty in acquiring a reflex reaction to printed text. This does not alter the fact that learning to read involves learning the sounds that the letters make to a point at which their recognition/decoding becomes an automatic, reflex reaction which does not involve cognition (conscious thinking). The vast majority of those who leave school illiterate every year are well able to recognise and vocalise the letters and letter groups of the alphabet but this ability has not been practiced to a point at which the response process has become independent of cognition. Their ‘schooling’ has not included the appropriate quantum of successful experience to make this happen. Where reading competence is the aim, mastering the mechanical or ‘skills’ part of the reading process is essential whatever learning difficulties a child may have inherited.

There is of course, a tiny percentage of children, possibly around 1.5%, whose learning difficulties mean that they will never learn to read but this fact cannot explain our failure to deliver literacy to one fifth of the population. It does not take intellectual superiority to make a good juggler; just lots of successful juggling practice. Similarly, it does not take a superior intellect to become a competent reader; just lots of successful reading practice. Failure by 20% of children to acquire fluent reading skills is not an indication of their intellectual inferiority; it is an indication that the education system has failed to deliver to them, the appropriate quantum of successful reading practice.

The failure of the UK education system to appreciate the logic of the Quantum Literacy Theory and to respond appropriately to that logic, fully explains our failure to deliver literacy to all of our children. An inexpensive and extremely practical means of responding appropriately to the Quantum Literacy Theory is already widely available to schools which could ensure that about 95% of children become competent readers before graduating to secondary school. Unless teachers and teacher training institutions grasp the fundamental truth of the Quantum Literacy Theory and train teachers accordingly, schools are unlikely to break the institutionalised attitude to illiteracy. There is some evidence that parents are less restricted in their attitudes and are already taking matters into their own hands.

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